By jasontomes Last updated:
Do you need to use your English skills for your job or business soon?
I’m just taking a guess, since you are reading this blog post.
I can also guess that you might be a little worried about using English for business.
Well, I have good news for you. In many ways, doing business in English can be easier than having a casual conversation in English.
Even though having conversations, surfing the internetand doing some casual reading in English can all be fun activities, a lot of different topics can come up. There is a lot of variety in vocabulary and grammar out there. You never know what to expect.Things can get confusing.
When you are speaking business English, you have a goal. You have some specific information to tell someone or to ask about. The person you are talking or writing to wants to reach the same goals as you. They want to solve the same problem that you want to solve. They want to share information with you. In a way, you are both on the same team and working together.
Since you probably have the same goals, you don’t have to worry as much about grammar or little mistakes. You canjust focus on communicating well and getting the job done.
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)
Before talking about ways to communicate effectively, let me tell you about the places and situations where you can expect to use business English. It can actually be very useful outside the office!
Types of Business English
Even if you do not need to use English for business every day, it can be useful for other reasons. For example, you might use business English when traveling or contacting customer support for a product you purchased. Many companies only offer customer support in English, so good communication skills can really help you get things done.
Business English at Your Job
If you are lucky enough to work for an international company, you may have to speak English to coworkers around the office, or even read and write memos in English so that everyone can understand.
Even if your company is not international, you may have to write emails or faxes to colleagues in other countries. When you travel or attend conferences, speaking good business English will help you make international business connections.
In some companies, you might even have a lot of customers who can only use English. People working in international sales may do what is called “cold calling” in English. That is when you call or contact people that you don’t know to sell them something or ask questions.
When you gain confidence, you can continue working towards becoming a business English rock star by strengthening your skills.
Business English at Home
It may seem strange to think that you can use business English at home, but there are a lot of chances to do this no matter where you live.
If you live in an international community, English can often be the “lingua franca,” or a common language with which everyone can communicate.
Even if you are living in a place where people do not usually use English, there are plenty of companies that only have customer service in English. When you call them for help, you will be able to explain your problem or question. Using a little business English can help you solve a problem, get a refund or get help with something.
As you can see, these days a little business English can be useful for anyone.
6 Simple Tips for Business English Beginners
This is the most important piece of advice I can give to both beginners and advanced learners. You should always be thinking: “no sweat, no stress.”It is perfectly normal to be nervous when using another language, but being calm can help you think clearly and get the job done.
Remember that business English is a little different from the casual English you use with your friends. In fact, in many ways it can be easier. In a professional situation, communicating well is more important than getting every grammar detail right.
It is more important that you can express your ideas clearly and speak with confidence. That means you do not have to worry about details like pronunciation and when to use a comma. In business English you have a goal, a reason and sometimes a problem to work together to solve.
Just relax, breathe, feel good about yourself and keep talking.
2. Be direct
If you asked your friend to lend you a book and she gave you the wrong one, you might write her an email like this to tell her about it:
“Hey. How are you doing today? Lunch last week was great, let’s do it again soon. By the way, I hate to bother you about this, but the book you gave me last week was the wrong one. I already read that one. I hope it’s not too much trouble, but could you give me the other one when I see you at work tomorrow? Thank you!”
As you can see, it took a lot of words to be friendly and tell your friend that you got the wrong book. You were being very friendly and nice. This is great among friends, but it is better (and easier) to be direct in business English.For example, that same message sent to a businessshould look something like this:
“Good morning. We ordered a book from you last week. We received the wrong book and would like to exchange it. Please contact us as soon as possible.”
It is often said that “time is money.” This is very true with businesses. People working in business do not have time to read long emails with lots of nice words.
Writing direct sentences is a great way to save both time and money. It may not sound too friendly, but a direct message shows people that you respect and value their time. It is easy for a person reading a short, direct email because theycan easily know the facts and work on solving the problem.
3. Keep it simple
When you talk to friends, you can joke and change the subject. In business English, it is best to be direct.
Don’t say anything extra. Stick to one topic at a time. Simpler words are usually better. Shorter sentences that have a clear focus are easier for everyone to understand. Luckily, you usually don’t need to use difficult TOEFL words in your business emails.
Also, you usually don’t need to repeat yourself, especially when what you need to say is simple and short. Repeating yourself can actually confuse people sometimes if they think you are saying something new. When you are communicating by email or in writing, they can always re-read what you wrote if they need to—but you want them to understand everything the first time.
If you use simple sentences and simple language, everyone will know exactly what you want. That means they will know exactly how they can help you, and they can start doing it faster.
4. Explain the topic you want to discuss
Life at a company can be very busy. People may not remember everything. It is always be helpful to remind them what you are calling or emailing to talk about!
“I’m calling about the email I sent you last Tuesday.”
“We ordered 25 pens. The order number is #1234-A…”
When you give a little information, everyone can follow the rest of what you say. They will understand the situation even if you get nervous or make a few mistakes. However, imagine getting a fax that just says:
“We need 2 more, you only sent 23.”
The message above is short and direct, but it is very confusing because we do not know what was ordered, when it was ordered or how to find that information easily. I am sure that the problem will be worked out in time, but it willbe easier if everyone has all of the important information. This is why you shouldalways start a conversation by clearly providing any important information about the topic of conversation.
This is especially important when using the phone and making business calls. Using business English on the phone can be the most challenging part of business English. However, if you keep all these hints in mind you will do fine.
4. Ask if you want to know something
Communication has to work both ways. If you don’t understand something, you can ask for more information. For example, let’s say that you get an email that says:
“We are not sure if we received it. Can you give us the POS?”
You might not know what they mean by “POS.” This means “Proof of Shipping” in this case. There is nothing wrong with asking them what it means.For example:
“Thank you for your response. Could you tell me what you mean by “POS”?”
There is no reason to worry about asking questions because everyone has the same goal and wants to solve the problem. Also, the next time someone asks you for a package’s “POS,” you will be ready.
5. Organize what you want to say
There are many ways to do this:
- When writing use bullet points (like I am doing now!).
- When speaking, you can use eye contact and even gestures to help people understand and remember what you are saying.
- If you ask questions, be clear and straight so that you can find out what you need. Ask one question at a time. Do not ask another question until you get the first question’s answer.
- If the email or conversation is long, you can briefly repeat the important points or questions at the end.
Using bullet points or a list the way I mentioned above is very useful when you have more than one question to ask or answer. It is perfectly fine to list numbers for the questions you need answered:
“I have three questions about our recent order:
1. When was the order sent?
2. What is the tracking number?
3. What is the next step if the item is lost?”
The above questions are very clear and should be very easy for someone to answer. Some people may even use your numbers to answer more clearly:
“The answer to question 2 is…”
6. Keep improving
It is a challenge to use English at work, but you can also improve very quickly. You can make a list of words you use often. You can copy the sentences that other people use and use them the next time. Use dictionaries. Use your best friend, Google, to find sample sentences you can use.
Continue improving your business English vocabulary, and don’t let yourself worry about little mistakes.
It is important to notice how you improve. This will give you even more confidence.
And always be proud of yourself for getting the job done…in English!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)
Jason Tomes is bilingual in Japanese and English. He has used his language skills to work in several different industries, and has also had the pleasure to teach both English and Japanese to students from multiple linguistic and cultural backgrounds, of ages ranging from 3 to 83.
- Focus on high-frequency vocabulary for work. ...
- Help students with vocabulary learning. ...
- Maximize student speaking time. ...
- Provide support for speaking tasks. ...
- Practice work skills your students need. ...
- Teach functional language phrases.
- Read English language newspapers and business websites. ...
- Watch English language TV shows and movies. ...
- Watch English language business and financial news. ...
- Set targets. ...
- Review before bedtime. ...
- Learn aloud. ...
- Put yourself in 'real life' English situations.
Business English focuses on vocabulary, phrases, grammar patterns and conversation topics you will likely hear at work or in business meetings. To be a pro at using English at work, you will still have to continue to learn regular English. Studying business English will just help you learn business-specific things.How can I practice business English speaking? ›
- Ask for Help. Some people find it very tough to ask others for help. ...
- Watch and Listen to Business-related Media. Podcasts. ...
- Write Down New Words and Phrases. ...
- Practice as Much as You Can! ...
- Make Time to Study.
A beginner English student is focused on learning essential vocabulary, such as family names, household objects, basic adjectives, and place names. Beginners are also becoming familiar with subject pronouns, frequently used verbs, and modal expressions.What skills do you need for business English? ›
Many business English learners tend to focus most of their efforts on speaking skills, because speaking is so important for communicating in meetings, negotiations, job interviews, etc. However, the other communication skills—reading, listening and writing—are just as important.How can I improve my business English writing skills? ›
- Think before you write. To ensure you create effective business materials, plan your message before writing it. ...
- Be concise. ...
- Understand your audience. ...
- Use active voice. ...
- Avoid using jargon. ...
- Get to your message quickly. ...
- Focus on accuracy. ...
- Be specific in your call to action.
General English focuses more on the day to day conversation and involves the use of basic vocabulary and grammar. It leans more on a casual tone. On the other hand, business English is more extensive and specific. It is mainly used as a language tool for business, as it is applied in a more professional context.What is the most important in business English? ›
Overall, the most important language skill in business is reading. This is what the report says: “Employers say it is important to have proficiency in all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening).What are the 5 C's in business English? ›
Construct marketing and other messages effectively by using the 5 C's as a guide: Context, Content, Clarity, Color and Carrier. Make the messages simple, engaging, easy to comprehend and with calls to action. Get more business.
There are a number of characteristics that are important in business English. These include clarity, conciseness, precision, and politeness. Of these, clarity is perhaps the most important.What are the four basics of business? ›
A successful small business must have 4 things in their corner – product, market, money & people. Whether you're a startup looking for venture capital or you want to become a successful small business all on your own, there are a few basic – but important – components every business must have.What is covered in business English? ›
Business English courses include vocabulary and phrases used in business and profesional setting, business writing, delivering presentations, giving opinions, negotiating, describing graphs and charts as well as conducting and taking part in meetings.How can I speak more professionally in English? ›
- Tip #1: Slow down.
- Tip #2: Make direct statements.
- Tip #3: Practise your intonation.
- Tip #4: Avoid filler words and sounds.
- Tip #5: Avoid unhelpful phrases.
You can teach English online with no experience at many private learning companies that offer individual tutoring or group classes. Typically, tutors receive training in the company's educational philosophy and teaching methods and they may also receive a syllabus or other materials to use as they work with students.What level of English should a beginner be? ›
English level A1 is the first level of English in the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), a definition of different language levels written by the Council of Europe. In everyday speech, this level would be called “beginner”, and indeed, that is the official level descriptor in the CEFR, also used by EF SET.How to learn English language step by step? ›
- Start speaking as soon as possible.
- Start reading.
- Make yourself accountable.
- Set more useful targets than “I will become fluent”
- Keep your personal goal in mind.
- Try flashcards to boost your vocabulary.
- Learn whole sentences.
- Sing along.
Soft skills, also known as interpersonal skills, are different from technical skills or competencies. Examples of soft skills include team building, listening, negotiation, persuasion, presentation, and writing skills.What is the main purpose of Business English? ›
The aim of business English is to improve your ability to interact with English-speaking countries or companies. Communicating in a business setting can be more challenging than usual. In this environment, presentation and confidence are important skills.What is Business English communication skills? ›
For others it refers to the communication skills used in the workplace, and focuses on the language and skills needed for typical business communication such as presentations, negotiations, meetings, small talk, socializing, correspondence, report writing, and a systematic approach.
- CLEAR: Make sure your purpose and intent is clear to the reader.
- COMPLETE: Include all the necessary information.
- CONCISE: Include only necessary and relevant information.
- COURTEOUS: Address the reader politely.
- CORRECT: Unscramble this sentence.
Drafting involves writing consistently in a formal, casual, or informal style characterized by the “Six Cs”: clarity, conciseness, coherence, correctness, courtesy, and conviction.What is business English examples? ›
In general, Business English is a form of English specially suited to international trade, commerce and finance. As such, Business English is the kind of English typically used in, for example: business meetings. sales presentations.What are some situations where business English is commonly used? ›
The most common words in business English can be used across different industries (e.g., trade, finance, technology, insurance) and among coworkers from different departments.What is business English grammar? ›
Business English is a type of writing that focuses on clearer, more direct language without slang, idioms, or grammatical errors. Understanding business English can make you a more effective business writer, whether you're a copywriter, marketer, or business executive writing internal policy documents.What are 3 types of processes? ›
The 3 main types of process: management, implementation and support￼ In the context of the cross-functional management of an organization, it is essential to model and control its processes.What skills should one master while using English for social or business communication? ›
The Four Skills to Master
For both native speakers and ESOL speakers, strong communication in English involves four modes: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
Like Lean, effective communication is about the how; it is about how communication takes place. With that in mind, here are the suggested 5S of communication: Size Up, Seek, Simulate, Stabilize and Sustain.What are the 5c of business communication? ›
To make sure your communication is effective, remember the 5 C's: Clarity, Conciseness, Consistency, Connection & Confidence.What are the parts of business letters? ›
- The Heading. The heading contains the return address with the date on the last line. ...
- Recipient's Address. This is the address you are sending your letter to. ...
- The Salutation. ...
- The Body. ...
- The Complimentary Close. ...
- The Signature Line. ...
Skill #1: Listening. Skill #2: Speaking. Skill #3: Reading. Skill #4: Writing.What is a summary in business English? ›
A summary is a brief/ short of information or statement in a text. We type the word that we need to find the synonym on the search column. We can see many synonym words; thus, we select one of them that has been suitable to the meaning and context.What is business English in ESL? ›
Teaching Business English is an ESL niche that focuses on business terminology and related topics as well as corporate culture. It is often taught onsite to employees of large companies, but you could even teach private English classes or teach Business English online.What are the 7 steps of a business? ›
- Start with a Good Business Idea. If you're wondering how to start a business, it may be easier than you think. ...
- Conduct Research About Your Business Idea. ...
- Write a Business Plan. ...
- Make Your New Business Official. ...
- Know Your Finances. ...
- Protect Your Business. ...
- Build Your Business.
To increase the quality of any business's processes, we routinely examine eight business fundamentals — planning, leadership, sales, marketing, people, operations, finance, and legal.How do I start a business teaching a language? ›
- Plan your Foreign Language Instruction Business.
- Form your Foreign Language Instruction Business into a Legal Entity.
- Register your Foreign Language Instruction Business for Taxes.
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card.
- 7 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Become Entrepreneurs. ...
- Teach Them How to Recognize Opportunities. ...
- Let Them Solve Problems. ...
- Inspire Resilience. ...
- Help Them Start Enterprises Early in Life. ...
- Teach Financial Literacy. ...
- Teach Goal Setting. ...
- Teach Technology Skills.
Some students may need to improve telephone skills for talking to customers or business associates. Some students may want to improve their listening skills to attend meetings and conferences presented in English. Still, other students may want to learn to write better emails in English.What is the 1st business language? ›
1. English. English is one of the most important languages for business, as it's spoken by around 1.35 billion people around the world as a first or second language.How can I teach myself business? ›
One of the easiest ways to start learning more about business basics is to read books, journals, magazines, and newspapers that provide information about successful business techniques. With so many business-related publications available, you will have a lot of options to choose from.
An MBA doesn't guarantee that you will be able to successfully launch a new business. An accredited MBA program will provide you with the skills and knowledge needed to start a business, but it's up to you to successfully execute your idea.What 3 business skills would you like to learn or improve? ›
- Financial management. Being able to effectively manage your finances is critical. ...
- Marketing, sales and customer service. ...
- Communication and negotiation. ...
- Leadership. ...
- Project management and planning. ...
- Delegation and time management. ...
- Problem solving. ...
Don't overcomplicate things by trying to teach business communication 101. Don't try to teach using the telephone effectively in one class. Break things down into small easily digestible chunks and remember to give enough time in class for your students to practice and utilise the information you've given them.What are four key skills that business helps develop? ›
Business skills are a foundation for success in the business world and include soft skills like communication, along with analytical and organizational skills that help a business succeed. Critical thinking, negotiation and trainability are other examples of business skills.What are the five biggest challenges in teaching English? ›
- Languages are complicated. ...
- Language teaching is hard work! ...
- Classroom management. ...
- Supporting students. ...
- Handling parents. ...
- You're in charge. ...
- Classroom resources. ...
- Support and assistance.
There are a number of characteristics that are important in business English. These include clarity, conciseness, precision, and politeness. Of these, clarity is perhaps the most important.What level is Business English? ›
There are three proficiency levels you can work to obtain: B1 Business Preliminary – working knowledge of business English. B2 Business Vantage – ability to be successful in an international business setting. C1 Business Higher – an advanced level of business English.